Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, more universally known as Higurashi: When They Cry, is an avant-garde horror mystery series that has released four seasons, three OVAs, and one movie thus far since its 2006 debut. Its fourth season recently aired its finale episode on September 30, 2021.
Higurashi follows Keiichi Maebara, who has just moved to the quiet little village of Hinamizawa in 1983, and quickly becomes inseparable friends with schoolmates; Rena Ryuuguu, Mion Sonozaki, Satoko Houjou, and Rika Furude. However, darkness lurks underneath the seemingly idyllic life they lead.
Higurashi: When They Cry has been named "one of the greatest horror anime ever made" for its spine-tingling cult-horror elements and its bloody, terrifying, and sadistic approach to betrayal, gore, and torture. Instead of cliché jump scares, Higurashi inspires terror in its brilliant plot and abrupt shifts in tone and characters. To showcase its horror mastery, here are some of the spookiest Higurashi moments so far.
Shion Rips Out Her Fingernails
Sonozaki Shion is one of the main characters of the Higurashi no Naku Koro ni series. She is well known for her spectacular mental breakdown and the bloodbath that ensues during those arcs. In Settlement, episode 17 of the Meakashi-hen arc, Shion must repent for her wrongdoings in a harrowing way. She enters a dimly lit room with Mion, her older sister, and finds a contraption on the table. Mion calmly informs her that it is a tool for tearing out fingernails as she explains that each nail Shion removes will represent her responsibility for each wrongdoing.
Nothing will give you nightmares quite like the sickening sound of a nail being torn out. Just thinking about it is enough to make your toes curl, not to mention enduring it for yourself. This event truly marked a shift in Shion's character from then on. Torture as immensely painful as this is a fate far worse than death.
Keiichi Slices His Own Throat
In Disturbance, the fourth episode of the Onikakushi-hen arc, Keiichi commits supposed suicide after an autopsy report reveals that he died of blood loss and that the wound was self-inflicted. Ōishi, an old detective, takes a call from a clearly hysterical and incoherent Keiichi. He discerns that Keiichi is calling from the payphone in Hinamizawaand concludes that he is in danger. Ōishi promises that help is on the way, but Keiichi dismisses this help as "probably useless," and "too late."
Ōishi demands to know who the suspect is, to which Keiichi hesitates in replying with apparent difficulty, but preaches that Oyashiro-sama exists and keeps following him. Oyashiro-sama's Curse is the Hinamizawa Syndrome. As the legends develop through the series, it becomes believed to occur when the breakage of certain village rules angers Oyashiro-sama.
Ōishi tries to convince Keiichi to look behind him to determine who the attacker actually is, but only hears Keiichi crying and gagging with a wet tearing sound. It is later revealed that Keiichi had died by tearing his own throat with his fingernails; not only is that a gruesome thought in itself, the voice acting and sound effects make it even more nightmarish.
Satoko Tears Out Rika's Organs
Nekodamashi-hen Part 3 (Cat-Deceiving Chapter Part 3) is the sixteenth episode of Higurashi: When They Cry - GOU and the third episode of Nekodamashi-hen, in which a literally gut-wrenching scene occurs. In this gore-filled episode, a lot goes on between the characters of Satoko and Rika; Satoko believes that performing a Watanagashi ritual is the only way to stave off Oyashiro-sama's wrath.
Watanagashi means "cotton drifting", which is a reflection of the Watanagashi Festival purpose -- sending cotton adrift in a river. However, as pointed out by Miyo Takano in Watanagashi-hen, "wata" is also a homonym for "intestines" when replaced with a different kanji character.
Satoko says that the only way for Rika to cleanse her sin is to perform the Watanagashi ritual on her. Satoko uses a gardening hoe to begin ripping apart Rika's innards, then crouches down and grabs some of Rika's intestines, pulling them out as Rika convulses in pain. Not only is it graphically disturbing, but Rika's pained shrieks are unnerving and uncomfortable to listen to.
Rena Tries To Feed Keiichi
Aptly named "the infamous door scene" by some, this eerie scene inspires distress without bloodshed or death. Rena tries to force her way into Keiichi’s house to feed him, acting on some obsessive tendencies towards him. Something is deeply unsettling about the interaction as Rena offers him vegetables, insisting that Keiichi let her feed him. Keiichi rightly refuses, stating that he had already prepared dinner for himself. This causes Rena to call Keiichi a liar, ferociously screaming with a crazed look in her eye, all while trying to force her way beyond the chained door.
Nobody likes a stalker, but this particular scene plays on a shared common fear of home invasion, along with classic spooky tropes. After all, countless horror narratives are based on the concept of a stranger attempting a break-in. If you add in the harassment factor, that becomes an even scarier combination.
Mion Kills Shion
In the fourth season, the 90th episode overall, Cotton-Revealing Chapter Part Two gives an all-new meaning to the phrase "sibling rivalry" as Mion murders Shion in a shocking turn of events. Mion blames Shion for Oyashiro-sama's curse targeting Keiichi and demands to know who in the village gave the order. Shion insists that she does not know and after her pleas grow tiresome for Mion, she fires a taser at Shion. Once Shion is subdued Mion then places her hands around Shion's neck and begins to strangle her.
Besides the act of strangulation being a very personal kill and a slow death, the scene is made even spookier by the mere fact that Mion, a character who has never succumbed to the Hinamizawa Syndrome, murders her baby sister only to immediately come to her senses moments after. When she does, Mion's piercing screams are more than enough to keep you awake at night.